Strategies for Playground Injury Prevention: An Overview of a Playground Project

By Olsen, Heather; Hudson, Susan D. et al. | American Journal of Health Education, May-June 2010 | Go to article overview

Strategies for Playground Injury Prevention: An Overview of a Playground Project


Olsen, Heather, Hudson, Susan D., Thompson, Donna, American Journal of Health Education


ABSTRACT

Preventing injuries to children, especially debilitating and life threatening, requires an awareness of where these types of injuries occur during the school days. This review examines falls from playground equipment, events that have been identified as the leading causes of nonfatal unintentional injuries for children. Thus, the issue of playground safety is a topic of concern for health educators. School health educators play an essential role in developing safe and healthy outdoor play environments for children. This paper highlights the importance of injury prevention awareness and outlines different strategies that health educators can take for preventing playground injuries. In addition, this paper examines a project that was conducted in the state of Iowa in relation to what effects playground surfacing materials and staff training may have on injury prevention on school playgrounds. The results of the project concluded that with the addition of proper surfacing material and staff training, playground injuries could be reduced. Health educators need to investigate the types of playground injuries in current programs and develop a strategy to keep children healthy and active.

INTRODUCTION

Childhood obesity is a key topic of discussion for health organizations and school health officials. (1-3) As the nation faces the plight of children who are overweight, fighting diabetes and struggling with cardiovascular disease, front line child health professionals and other health educators need to provide a variety of avenues for children to develop healthy minds and bodies. Research studies have shown that the use of playgrounds is a fundamental part of school days in which they enhance children's physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills. (4) A position paper from the National Association for the Sport and Physical Education states:

   Recess provides children with discretionary
   time and opportunities to
   engage in physical activity that helps to
   develop healthy bodies and enjoyment
   of movement. It also allows elementary
   children to practice life skills such as
   conflict resolution, cooperation, respect
   for rules, taking turns, sharing, using
   language to communicate and problem
   solving in situations that are real. Furthermore,
   it may facilitate improved
   attention and focus on learning in the
   academic program. (5(p1))

Playgrounds are the ideal place for children to engage in motor, cognitive and social skill development during school hours. Unfortunately, playground injuries remain a major source of unintentional injuries for children under the age of 14 in the United States. (6) In fact, 205,860 preschool and elementary children each year receive emergency medical treatment for playground-related injuries. About 76% involve injuries that happen on public equipment. (6) The Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention study revealed that children aged 5 to 9 years are injured more frequently (56%) than children younger than 4 years old (30%) and children aged 10 to 12 years (12%) on public playgrounds. (6) Child injuries interfere with students' ability to be in the classroom making the most of the learning opportunities. It is the goal of health educators to improve school health and provide for safe environments for child to be physically and socially active at school. Thus, health educators need to be aware of different strategies to use for playground injury prevention.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal unintentional injury for children. (7) The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) shows that falls from playground equipment (205,850 hospital cases) accounted for approximately 79% of the injuries on public playgrounds. (6)

Several research studies in the 1990s and 2000s have pointed to the increased probability of injury with increased playground heights. …

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